Monday, September 15, 2008

No Witty Title to express our Sadness...

First of all for those readers away from my home town. Last week a terrible accident right downtown claimed the life of a vibrant, well known Crookston woman. At the busiest (according to our Police Chief) intersection in town, an out of state semi-driver was making a sharp 90 degree right hand turn and somehow Ramona Unke, a pedestrian crossing the street was killed.

It has created a lot of comment (some not so nice) in the guestbook for the local newspaper. Some folks are suggesting forbidding large vehicles (even farm vehicles) from being in town, other want a sting operation to challenge drivers who don't give the right-of-way to those on foot. People are exchanging their grief for anger, because being angry allows them to try to lay blame on someone, anyone, then they can justify some logic to what happened. It was the drivers fault, it was the State of Minnesota's fault for not being more direct in the signage for the trucks to use the bypasses, it's the police/sheriff/highway patrol's fault for not being more aggressive in getting vehicles to yield to walking traffic.

If we can lay fault we can transfer blame and we don't hurt so much. Just like ending a relationship, it's easier to be angry at someone then to grieve their loss. So in this I will tell you that I'm actually trying to engage my feelings of grief no matter how difficult that might be. Having lost a close cousin years ago in a car/pedestrian accident, these current events drag up all those feelings again, as sharp and focused as if they just happened. I cling to my religious convictions that Ramona was a confessing Christian woman and has found herself in the Presence of our Lord and Creator. And in trying to find some earthly positive result to this accident I offer this as a physical consideration to help insure that this won't happen again on that corner.

Consider this...Making Ash street from Robert Street Northbound, a one way street for about 3 blocks. Widen the corner at the library so that large and long vehicles can make a safer and easier turn, put in stoplights that shut down ALL the traffic for pedestrian crossings there. Cut the sharp corner a bit, and make the lane so it uses ALL of Ash Street! Then the big traffic would head north past the empty Cathedral church and then when it gets to the current T on 3rd Street, there would be a sweeping curve to the left across the open land where the former high school stood, then a sweeping curve back to the right where the traffic would merge with the 3 lanes of Broadway at 4th Street. No houses would have to be moved, it would eliminate any sharp 90 degree corners for the large and long vehicles, it would make it easier for all the commercial traffic, and the Sunday night "returning from the lakes" holiday traffic, and allow at least part of the downtown to be more like a downtown that's NOT A BUSY STATE HIGHWAY.

As far as costs go, it's not like having to move homes, or businesses, it's mostly open land, and a piece of a street that there isn't any commercial business on now. And it IS a STATE HIGHWAY (translate STATE $$$.) We would actually improve the protection for the walking and biking crowd in front of the library and on Broadway. There would be less noise because everything can happen in smooth fluid movements rather than stops and starts. We could even name it something appropriate to remember Ramona by. Our sympathies to the Unke family and to the Driver and his family.